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Deadwood, South Dakota: America's first gambling getaway
be up-front about this: When
you come home from a visit to your travel agent with a stack of colorful travel
brochures, Deadwood, South Dakota isn't likely to be
among them. Even with the popularity of the
eponymous series about this town on HBO that has spurred a new
wave of interest in this hotbed of American history,
many travelers may have a hard time understanding the
appeal of this dusty destination at first glance.
Turns out, Deadwood has a past richer than a
in part to the high
concentration of gold in the Black
Hills and a cast of
original American hotheads and
certified wild women that would put modern-day Los
Angeles to shame—and
the city does its best to keep that history alive. The dust in the streets vibrates with
the unrestrained energy of its most infamous residents,
such as Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane.
As you walk down Main
Street, you might notice the sharp scent of gun powder,
a reminder of the old days when a shootout over cheatin',
lyin' or both' could occur at any moment. And one glance
around at the authentic 19th-century saloons and Western
building facades lets you know that this is no Disney
recreation. This here's the real McCoy.
While the faithful preservation of this Old West mining
town is enough to draw curious visitors who want a
glimpse into America's fascinating past,
is—a gamblin’ town
at its core. Lining Main Street are old-time gambling
whose cozy poker rooms filled with brass chandeliers and
Western antiques provide a relaxing alternative to the
halls of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Plus, nothing says vacation fun like playing cards while sitting next
to Wild Bill Hickock’s “death
chair” at the
very table where he played his final hand before having his head blown off by the
Jack McCauchin at the Old Style Saloon. (If you have any
trouble imagining this scene, don’t worry—it’s
recreated for your convenience four times a day.)
don’t have to be concerned about losing your head or
your shirt these days, however—Deadwood’s low-stakes
gambling rules ($100 is the maximum bet) will help make
sure that you arrive home
with your valuables intact.
yourself into one of Deadwood’s historic hotels to help
recreate the past.
The Franklin Hotel,
which has been a staple on
Main Street since 1903,
comes fully equipped with modern
amenities for your comfort (such as cable TV), but it also
continues to offer such
nostalgic features as “fainting room” for light-headed ladies.
Also on Main Street is the
beautiful 19th Century hotel with a special
feature—it’s reportedly haunted by Seth Bullock,
the first sheriff of Deadwood and who is reported to
mingle with his hotel guests on a regular basis.
When it’s time to eat you’ll find that steak
dominate the scene (and take note—the steaks aren’t all from
cows…the best-selling dish at actor Kevin Costner’s Deadwood
Jakes, is the buffalo rib-eye).
But if meat
isn’t your thing, there’s also the highly
recommended Oyster Bay Restaurant with an oyster bar and
Events coming up
September 8-9: The annual Deadwood Jam music festival will be rocking
the residents with acts including the Smithereens, Soul
Asylum, John Hiatt and the Subdudes.
Fly to Rapid City
Airport in South Dakota. Then rent a car or
call Dakota Taxi at (605) 920-2020 for a ride
make the scene?
still get your hands on a piece of the lifeblood
of Deadwood: gold that was mined in the historic
Black Hills Homestake Gold Mine. This was the
largest and most productive mine in South Dakota
for 125 years. When it finally closed in 2002,
the last pieces of gold removed were put
aside for sale to the public. You can tell
friends you won it playing crazy-8s in a saloon
against a drunken varmint.
$35 to $150 depending on the weight,
This month, one lucky
Four Weeks subscriber
a genuine piece of gold
from the Homestake Gold Mine.
Have you subscribed yet? It's
Photos courtesy of Deadwood
Chamber of Commerce